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Faces from Yemen’s revolution Hussein Al-Qadhi

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Hussein Al-Qadhi, 24, was one of the first young men who started an anti-government sit-in at ‘Change Square’ in Marib governorate earlierthis year in March. The common stereotype of the tribes in Marib is of them being armed and violent, but Al-Qadhi wanted to show that the people of Marib are equally able to protest peacefully. Among others, he was successfully able to encourage the tribal youth of Marib’s ‘Change Square’ to lay their weapons aside and protest peacefully under banners.

When protests first began in Marib, they were not calling for the overthrow of the regime. Hussein and his friends from various tribes in Marib had gathered for a qat chewing session by candle light. During the qat-inspired brain storming session, they discussed what action should be taken so that Marib was treated equally with other cities as far as having access to electricity.

The youth in that session decided to protest in front of the governorate building to demand more hours of electricity. The next morning 40 young tribal youth went and protested but they were soon attacked Central Security Forces and Republican Guard with live ammunition and two were wounded.

“All we demanded at the beginning was equal distribution of electricity, as the gas [power generating] station is in Marib, but the electricity is always off in Marib and on in other governorates,” said Hussein.

When soldiers opened fire on the protesters, the protesters immediately escalated their demands shouting for the regime to withdraw.

“At that moment our weapons were in the car but we didn’t use them. We encouraged all protesters to remain peaceful, and show that the power is in not returning violence, but in demanding their rights strongly,” Hussein explained.

The protesters brought their tents and created a sit-in and then marched on the governorate building. The governor himself left the building and shot at the protesters according to some who were there. The official news agency, however, reported that protesters broke into the building and stabbed the governor in his neck.

The republican guards and central security joined in the attack against the protesters at this time, and at least seven protesters were wounded.

“He [the governor] came out. I saw him with my own eyes, and he was the first to shoot,” said Hussein.

The regime has repeatedly accused the tribes and the political opposition parties of preventing fuel trucks from traveling between Marib governorate and the capital Sana’a.

Hussein was one of three young protesters who wanted to show that the regime’s accusations against the tribes were lies. He offered the director of the fuel company assurances that the trucks would arrive safely to Sana’a. They offered to protect the trucks, and even to drive it them if needed. According to Hussein the director initially seemed happy with that solution and promised to call them in few days, but the call never came. The director then became unreachable.

“Ten of the fuel trucks owned by Ahmed Ali [the president’s son] were taken by thugs. Some were taken by those who called themselves revolutionaries, but were not. So that’s when the company decided to no longer transfer fuel to Sana’a and the [fuel] crisis began,” said Hussein.

Now there are two protest squares in Marib. One is the peaceful sit-in protest in front of the governorate building where the protesters plan and hold political discussions. The second protest square is in front of the government buildings and is armed to protect the buildings from thugs and looting.

“We revolted in Marib seeking to change two things. First, the stereotype that the tribes of Marib are violent, and to show that armed people can use a peaceful path. Second to demand the withdrawal of the regime,” said Hussein.

Two escalation plans have been suggested by political parties and some revolutionary figures in Sana’a – a National Council or a transitional council. When asked which plan he prefers, Hussein said that those Marib’s ‘Change Square’ lean more towards the transitional council, even though a National Council would include members from Marib’s ‘Change Square’ and the transitional council would not.

“We need a realistic solution now to end the fuel crisis, and the transitional council seems the solution,” he said.

Written by shatha

July 28, 2011 at 10:09 am

Al-Qaeda ‘claims’ attacks in Abyan governorate By: Shatha Al-Harazi

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SANA’A, July, 27 — Al-Qaeda has released a statement implying responsibility for the conflict between militants and the state in Abyan governorate that has been ongoing since late May.

A voice recording alleged to be Nasser Al-Wuhayshi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Yemen has been posted on an Islamist website. It is directed towards Ayman Al-Zawahiri, seen by many terrorism experts as the leader of Al-Qaeda since Osama bin Laden’s death.

“Our situation is good, thank God, and we are progressing well on the local and international level, according to your [Al-Zawahir] plan,” said Al-Wuhayshi. Whilst the recording does not specifically mention Abyan, the text implies that the governorate is the topic of the statement.

In the recording Al-Wuhayshi vows to continue fighting the “US enemy,” accusing them of starting the war against Al-Qaeda in Abyan by sending in drones.

“The American enemy stood disabled against the situation in Yemen. The only thing they could do is intelligence work and air strikes… They choose the war,” said Al-Wuhaishi, accusing both the Yemeni regime and the opposition parties of accepting American interference in Yemen.

Al-Wuhaishi also claimed that Al-Qaeda should support the peaceful revolution in ‘Change Squares’ nationwide, saying that the revolutions in Arab countries supports their plans in vanquishing the ‘enemy’. He added that the Yemeni people are ‘over’ their political parties that only look out for their own interests and serve the enemy.

Moreover, Al-Wuhaishi announced that members of Al-Qaeda are part of the revolution, and they are in the ‘Change Squares’ sharing with the protesters their happiness and sadness.

Political analyst, Ahmed Al-Zurqa, suggests that the tape was created to serve President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s interests, and that the voice may not be that of Al-Wuhaishi.

“Al-Wuhaishi speaks about what is happening in the ‘Change Squares’ and that Al-Qaeda is part of it,” said Al-Zurqa. “Everyone knows that Al-Qaeda believes in violence and not peaceful means.”

Al-Zurqa suggested that the message in this tape is only a repetition of what Saleh and his security bodies have said previously, which means that Al-Qaeda is delivering Saleh’s message to the world.

According to Al-Zurqa, the fact that the message attacked the opposition political parties, and said that Al-Qaeda members were in the ‘Change Squares’ is meant to lead to the conclusion that the independent youth in the squares are Al-Qaeda members.

“The fact that the youth in the squares remain peaceful assures us that no Al-Qaeda members are in the squares” he explained.

“The timing of the tape is another factor that makes me suspicious that the tape was sent by Al-Qaeda,” said Al-Zurqa, adding that the regime needs this step as means to negotiate the current transfer of power that is currently on hold.

“He [Al-Wuhaishi] didn’t talk about any of their operations in Aden, like the car bombing operation last week that targeted the British expert and the second that killed military soldiers,” said Al-Zurqa.

“He didn’t talk about the fight in Abyan directly, and he didn’t mention the condition of the president’s health which are the main things Al-Qaeda usually talk about.”

Al-Zurqa claims that this tape has been released to justify the expected violence against the ‘Change Squares’. He also said that this is not the first time a tape alleged to be made by Al-Qaeda has been released to serve the aims of the regime. He referred to a tape by Al-Wuhaishi that was released when Saleh was threatening that the south would separate from the north, which Al-Zurqa alleges, justified the regime’s next step.

Recently, tribes in Abyan have joined together to fight the alleged Al-Qaeda militant groups in their governorate. Yemen’s official news agency has reported a number of Al-Qaeda leaders have been killed by the military in Abyan, though few admit to recognizing the names of these Al-Qaeda leaders.

Last week the army launched an offensive against militants in Abyan. Reuters reported that the army so far has only regained one military site. An army spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Al-Qaeda fighters had attacked one of its camps on Monday night.

“Ten militants were killed by heavy shelling before they could make it to the military camp,” he said, adding that one of those killed was a senior member of the militant group.

At least 60,000 families have been displaced from Abyan to Aden and Lahj governorates since the fighting began in May.

Written by shatha

July 28, 2011 at 10:06 am

Posted in Yemen's news

Suicide car bomb kills nine soldiers in Aden By: Shatha Al-Harazi

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SANA’A, July 23 — A suicide car bomber targeted a military convoy in Beer Al-Fdhl, in the Al-Mansora district of Aden around 8am Sunday morning. A Toyota Hilux packed with explosives crashed into at least two armored vehicles from Air Defense that were headed to Abyan governorate.

The attack is believed to be by Al-Qaeda members that left at least nine soldiers dead, according to medical sources in Al-Buraihi Hospital. Associate Press quoted an official as saying that two senior officers, a major and a lieutenant-colonel, were among the killed.

At least 21 were wounded in the attack with the injured being distributed between Aden’s hospitals, according to journalist Abdullah Al-Sharafi in Aden.

“Military sources confirmed to me that nine were killed and over 20 wounded. This attack against a military vehicle using a car bomb is not the first,” said journalist Anees Mansour from Aden.

The attack on Sunday morning was the fifth car bomb attack in Aden over the last two months. Only last Wednesday, a British citizen working in the shipping industry was killed in car bombing also believed to be the work of Al-Qaeda.

On June 29, Colonel Mutee’ Al-Syani, a high ranking colonel in the Yemeni military, was assassinated by a car bomb. On June 23, Colonel Khalid Al-Hubaishi, leader of Infantry Regiment Division 31, was bombed whilst driving his own car home at night. On June 13, a car packed with explosives attacked armored vehicles in Katliks.

Although security check points are spread across Aden, locals complain that they are ineffective. “The whole governorate is just check points, but they are useless,” said local Al-Sharafi.

Political analysts warn that the same scenario that has played out in Abyan will soon be repeated in Aden if the state cannot stop Al-Qaeda and related militant groups.

“This [Sunday’s] bombing is a message from Al-Qaeda, that they have started to penetrate more,” said Mansour. “There are Al-Qaeda cells in Aden. They enter individually and have more than one active cell in the Dar Sa’ad area.”

According to Mansour, Al-Qaeda cells inside the governorate exhaust the military, although the security belt in Aden is “enough”. Mansour said that if the militant groups managed to defeat the 25th mechanized brigade in Abyan, then Aden will also have fallen to the militant groups.

“Since February there has been a lawlessness in Aden. The military have not been doing their duties. There are armed people wandering in the city at nights, banners encouraging the Islamist Caliphate, that scare the locals,” said Mansour.

Ahmed Al-Zurqa, a political analyst, told the Yemen Times that the Abyan scenario is repeating itself in Aden, and that Aden is more likely to to descend into greater chaos.

“This is the fifth or sixth operation in Aden that a limited number of members have committed. But they are so aware of the area,” said al-Zurqa.

Al-Zurqa predicted that Aden faces a greater risk if the 25th mechanized brigade came under the militant groups control. “In Abyan, there is support by other brigades, and the tribes there are fighting to take back Abyan from the armed groups,” he said. “In Aden there are around six military camps that follow the southern area, therefore it’s hard to say that Aden will be an open area for armed fighting.”

According to Al-Zurqa, the regime playing the Al-Qaeda card has become risky for both the country and the regime itself, especially in Aden. The area is of great importance due to its location on a major international sea route and as a path for a large volume of petroleum products.

Some locals believe that the US has had a hand in supporting terrorism in Yemen as a justification for sending in their troops with the excuse of counter-terrorism. There is a fear that foreigners wish to gain access to Yemen’s resources, of which Aden is of central importance. However, Al-Zurqa thinks that the US would avoid this step because of the potentially huge military and political cost.

Written by shatha

July 25, 2011 at 7:52 am

Posted in Yemen's news

WHO warns of health crisis in southern governorates By: Shatha AL-Harazi

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SANA’A, July 20 — Violence increased last week in Taiz, Arhab, Abyan, and Sana’a due to continuing political unrest. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Yemen, Dr. Ghulam Popal, confirmed to the Yemen Times that all political parties involved in the recent events are cooperating regardless of their roles in the conflicts.

“Everything in Yemen is political, but health services are more neutral and impartial. We appreciate the assistance from all parties and the field hospitals,” said Popal.

As different parties provide different information about any individual incident, the WHO has three step procedure in place to check the neutrality of any information supplied to them.

First, when an incident occurs an operation team from both the Ministry of Health and the WHO call all the hospitals to keep posted on their needs and the number of killed and injured. Second they glean information from field hospitals at the protest areas. Finally, in cases of conflicting information from hospitals and field hospitals, the representative and the health cluster coordinator go and check the situation for themselves.

In February, when the anti-government protests started, protesters complained that the government hospital were not accepting injured protesters, or if accepted that they were not treated well. Dr. Popal told the Yemen Times that this situation has now changed, and that the Kuwait Hospital in Sana’a is treating injured protesters.

The WHO also works with internally displaced persons (IDPs) from both south and north Yemen. According to the WHO, southern governorates in Yemen are facing three emergency humanitarian situations simultaneously. There is an influx of IDPs within Abyan, with many others heading towards Aden and Lahj. There is also a serious outbreak of diarrheal diseases and cholera in Abyan, and finally there are incoming casualties from the conflict zones in Aden.

If the current unstable situation continues, Dr. Popal fears that IDPs will be more vulnerable to food poisoning over the up-coming Ramadan period. People usually eat a lot during the night during Ramadan, and given the shortage of power for refrigeration or cooling, food poisoning is likely to be a problem as food spoils during the daytime heat.

IDPs in Abyan complained to the Yemen Times of dirty and standing water they have to use because of a shortage of clean water. The WHO said that they cover 16 schools in order to solve this problem. The WHO is supporting two mobile health care units in Aden and one in Lahj. These mobile units are delivering health care services to IDPs living mostly in schools and with host families.

Another common complaint by IDPs is that their children suffer badly from diarrhea diseases. In response the WHO has sent a complete diarrhea disease treatment kit to Aden, which includes antibiotics, oral rehydration salts (ORH) and intravenous fluids for the management of 100 severe and 400 moderately dehydrated patients. This has been delivered to the Al-Razi Hospital which is providing inpatient treatment. The WHO has also sent one interagency emergency health kit (IEHK), which is a metric ton of medicines and supplies for primary health care – enough for a population of 30,000 for one month – to Abyan for Al-Razi hospital.

The outbreak of diarrhea has grown increasingly serious in Abyan governorate. Between April 7 and June 15, Al-Razi hospital has reported 667 patients admitted suffering diarrhea. A hospital in Shokra has also reported 75 cases. The number of cases in the population at large will be far higher, as there is no system to collect and report the cases due to security situation in Abyan. There are no figures as to how many are suffering or dying at home away from the hospital – the only place where records are kept. The situation looks as it will get worse with outbreaks spreading to the neighboring governorates of Lahj and Aden if immediate action to control the diseases are not taken now.

In addition to maintaining a supply chain of medicines and supplies, the WHO has also chlorinated 12 water wells in the affected areas to try and control the outbreak. WHO has trained volunteers from the community in Abyan as they have more access to locals there, but the security situation has still stopped the local and emergency projects from working.

Written by shatha

July 23, 2011 at 9:08 am

Posted in Yemen's news

Violence resumes in Sana’a By: Shatha Al-Harazi

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SANA’A, July 20 — One protester was killed, five wounded by life ammunition and 65 exposed to tear gas on Monday in an attack against anti-government protesters, the first since the announcement of a transitional council on Saturday.

The youth who vowed to escalate and strengthen the “revolutionary action” marched on Monday demanding that the international community accept the transitional council. The council consists of 17 members, eight of which are from the south. The youth also called for the removal of what they call “the rest of the regime,” specifically meaning President Saleh’s sons and nephews.

“We went out on a march. We were in the hundreds, and the Central Security stopped us at Kintaki Bridge. But then they let us continue on our way,” said Radhwan Al-Himi, one of the protesters. After the protesters passed the bridge, however, they were attacked by ‘thugs’.

Protesters managed to take a photo of the alleged killer of protester Hassan Al-Hawri that was soon was distributed on social networks. Many facebook users  posted Al-Hawri’s picture as their own to show their support for the cause he was killed for – the end of Saleh’s regime.

“We retreated back from Kintaki bridge and again clashes started. They [thugs] hit us with rocks and fireworks, then the Central Security joined them and attacked us,” said Al-Himi.

Some youth said that although they are losing more than they are gaining from these marches, it is the price of freedom and they are willing to pay it. “Tomorrow we have another march. We are willing to sacrifice until the revolution returns to its right path. We also know that losing martyrs can also make more people show their solidarity with the revolution,” said Al-Himi.

Other pro-protest youth think that marching nowadays is not safe, and the organizers should concede that the loses out-weight the benefits. “I think marching now is only going towards death. The protesters should first gain more power from inside, rather than exposing themselves to the regime’s thugs and the security forces,” said Feras Shamsan, another protester.

The first armored division, that defected from the government forces after the killing of protesters in Sana>a on March 18, have previously vowed to protect the youth from attacks forces loyal to the state. However, they no longer seem willing to back this pledge with action, and indeed, there have been reports of violence against the youth from the division since the youth started demanded a transitional council and the removal of the remnants of the regime.

Political analyst, Ahmed Al-Zurqa, said that the violence is increasing against the protesters in these marches due to their small numbers. He says that the security forces that are spread in nearby neighborhoods will use violence against such small gatherings.

“The security forces are filled with the wrong information. They have been filled with hatred and violence,” said Al-Zurqa.

There have been divisions across the political opposition on how to deal with the developing political situation. Some have showed their support of the transitional council chosen by one of the coalitions in ‘Change Square’. Other opposition political parties who condemned the attack against the youth on Monday still do not support their demands, and do not approve of the transitional council.

“The Joint Meeting Parties [the coalition of opposition political parties] have lost its popularity, and lost the means of effective communication with the youth,” said Al-Zurqa.

According to Al-Zurqa, the political scene in Yemen is vague and getting harder predict as the number of active players increase. “The US and the European Union support the Gulf countries vision for Yemen, and the JMP have rejected the transitional council,” he said.

Written by shatha

July 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Violation

Youth volunteers help rebuild Al-Hasaba By: Shatha AL-Harazi

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Hundreds of young volunteers went to clean up the warf torn area of Al-Hasaba on Saturday. Putrid smells of dead bodies or other severed body parts still lingered in the area where the Yemeni Government and the Hashid tribal confederation engaged in a 13 day war.

“My colleague found a hand of a dead human being among the rubble. It’s disgusting how anyone can live this way,” said one of the volunteers.

The area which witnessed the most intense violence in the capital Sana’a is still unsecured as the truce that was made by a Saudi mediator is expected to be broken. Hundreds of residents were displaced from the area and have come back to find their homes destroyed.

Life in Al-Hasaba has yet to return to normal. To help rebuild the area, young volunteers who organized by the Eyoon initiative, had the idea to initiating the clean-up and rebuilding of the area themselves instead of waiting on the state to take the initiative.

For two weeks, several people warned members of the group not to put their lives at risk by entering the still volatile area. Once the volunteers has finished their days work, heavy gunfire was heard close by the area. Before they took cover, a six year old ran out the rubble to tell them to calm down.

“Don’t be scared,” he said. “This is a normal shooting between the tribesmen and the government. We hear it every day,” added the child.

In every street, armed tribesmen still hold positions behind barricades and sandbags. Chewing qat, they await any return to violence.

When the volunteers started cleaning the streets, residents were amazed and thankful and several joined the volunteers for the clean-up.

“This event taught the residents how to rely on themselves and they liked what we did, they might have thought that it’s impossible to make the neighborhood the way it was and that’s why they didn’t clean it before we do,” said Randa Hussein, one of the volunteers.

“You did what we should have done ourselves, we highly appreciating what you are doing,  it would normally cost us one million and half YR to clean this dirt only,” said a Al-Hasaba local council member to the volunteers.

Painting was another part of the campaign that was meant to take place only at one of the schools. To cover the bullet holes and RPG damage to the Al-Rahma school where the fighting began, volunteered painted over the damage.

In the school the volunteers integrated with the military college students who were located at this school to protect and to fight the tribes from. The soldiers who had to prepare for exams showed their respect to what the volunteers where doing in a small debates between the soldiers and the volunteers on why do the soldiers obey orders to fight the tribes in a civilian neighborhood, the soldiers nicely said “All what we know is to obey our leader in it’s our responsibility to protect the governmental buildings” although the volunteers didn’t agree on what he said they didn’t judge  him but respect his point of view which is another value that is not found easily in the capital these days.

“I went back to my life with more respect to these soldiers although I don’t agree on what they said, but it was the first time that we get closer to them and see their misery” said a volunteer.

Written by shatha

July 18, 2011 at 7:31 am

Abyan IDPs face disease, malnutrition BY: Shatha Al-Harazi

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SANA’A, Jul. 17 — Abyan’s IDPs in Aden are more likely to get viruses diseases NS tuberculosis due to bad nutrition that is spreading among the residents themselves.

Cholera cases were already foundin the IDPs schools according to Ahlam Sofan, program associate at the United Nations Population Fund.

“We are scared of standing water as the IDPs use it for washing their clothes.  Using this water increases the chances that diseases will spread,” said Sofan.

There is also lack of medication for the IDPs. Diabetes patients and people with high blood pressure are suffering the most by not having regular access to health care.

One of the IDPs who lives with his 12 sons and their families in a classroom of one of Aden’s schools told the Yemen Times that he doesn’t have the medicine after spending 45 days in the school.

“I am from Zinjibar, I ran away from death but it seems like we still facing the same threat of death here” said Abu Ahmed.

The Deputy Minister of Information, Abdo Al-Janadi, said that Minister Ahmed Al-Kuhlani was assigned to follow the IDPs situation in Aden and Lahj two weeks ago and that the state is trying its best to solve the crisis.

“Death is better than the life they [the IDPs] live now” said Al-Janadi in a press conference

According to Sofan who visited the IDPs in Lahj and Aden, the IDPs in Lahj are more organized and will benefit from any aids more than those in Aden as they are given serial numbers by the governorate office so it’s easier to know where they are and reach them.

In Lahj 90% of the IDPs are located in host communities, 5 % are located in schools and 5% rent their own accommodations. They are all registered with the health office of the governorate.

Last week the UNFPA distributed dignity kits to female IDPs. The kits include basic needs for women such as Abayas and undergarments. As the IDPs escaped from Abyan during the shelling and fighting between the state and the armed groups alleged to be Al-Qaeda among them – left with only the clothes on their backs.

“The dignity kits helps women to look decent enough to go out and ask for help from the health office,” said Marc Vandenberg he the UNFPA representative in Yemen.

The IDPs were happy to receive the dignity kits. “We ran without taking any clothes thinking that the war would be over soon and we would return but this wasn’t the case, we have been here for 45 days without any cloths we needed this bag badly,” said Uom Bushra an IDP who received the dignity kit.

However some thought distributing food or mattresses would be better. “We are not in a position to choose what aid to take. I am happy to have this kit but as long as I need food I would say the kit is unnecessary now,” said another IDP who received the bag.

Although the health office said that the governor gave YR 30 million to aid the IDPs, one of the shelter school supervisors said that so far the aid is coming from international NGOs and local businessmen and nothing from the state.

“We have nothing left to sell but our children, we need money to treat our children,” said one of the IDPs.

Written by shatha

July 18, 2011 at 7:05 am

Posted in Violation

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